Live review: Bölzer, Svartidauði, Eggs of Gomorrh, Archgoat @ Sound Control, Manchester (06/10/17)

If you’ve ever talked to me about music, you probaly know I’m a huge fan of Bölzer. I think they’re the most exciting band playing in extreme metal today, bar none, and their string of releases over the last few years as well as renowned live shows have cemented their place as one of the most talked about extreme metal bands around. I’ve also long been an admirer of Svartidauði’s music, particularly their album “Flesh Cathedral” which remains an all-time favourite, and whose fundamental importance in the growth and development of the Icelandic black metal scene cannot be understated. So imagine my joy when I heard the announcement of the Continental Crucifixion tour, which would bring both of these phenomenal bands along with black/death warlords Archgoat and the bruising blackened death metallers in Eggs of Gomorrh to a city very near where I live! Read on for more details of this incredible tour lineup!

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Review and Interview: Nexion

I first came across Nexion at their performance at Oration Festival MMXVII in Reykjavik. A friend of mine knew them, and made me aware that they were well worth seeing. Their blistering show suggested a band with real experience on stage, despite having not yet released any recordings under the name Nexion. As it transpires, vocalist John Rood is also in Fenrismaw, while guitarist Jóhannes Smárason used to perform live with Svartidauði, and fellow guitarist Óskar Rúnarsson plays in Blood Feud. As with many of Iceland’s bands, there is cross-pollination. But Nexion‘s new music differs quite substantially from much of the black metal that has erupted from the little Island in its approach to blackened death metal. Read on for the review, as well as an interview with vocalist Josh Rood. Continue reading “Review and Interview: Nexion”

Live report: Zhrine / Auðn / Hubris (23/04/2017)

The prospect of seeing two of Iceland’s very best black metal bands performing at a free-entry show in a small pub in London was simply too much for me to resist, so I caught a coach down from York in eager anticipation. Since the release of their album Unortheta (probably my favourite album of all time), Zhrine have secured spots at major festivals around Europe and North America, and even toured the US with Ulcerate and Phobocosm last year. Self-described ‘outsiders’ to Iceland’s black metal scene, Auðn are truly one of Iceland’s underrated gems. Atmospheric and evocative, bleak and tortured by melancholy, with throat-shredding shrieks and howls. Their side-project Hubris rounded off the stellar lineup, delivering brutal death metal aggression with malicious black metal influences. The stellar lineup delivered a spectacular show for all present, reaffirming the strength of Iceland’s metal scene. Continue reading “Live report: Zhrine / Auðn / Hubris (23/04/2017)”

Review: Draugsól – “Volaða Land”

Volaða Land is the debut record from the recently-formed Icelandic group Draugsól. The band describe themselves as black metal, and by and large that’s accurate, but to my ears there’s a whole lot of death metal influence going on here as well, with a prominent low-end sound, heavy palm-muted guitar riffs, and guttural vocals. In some ways the texture of influences on this album almost reminds me of a way heavier, more death metal-influenced Enslaved. The tremolo-picked guitar passages and aggressive percussion are here as well of course, but Draugsól venture well beyond these conventional genre boundaries. The songs are constructed around powerful melodies, rhythms and motifs, with some incredibly tasteful, understated guitar solos and jazzy, varied percussion. Continue reading “Review: Draugsól – “Volaða Land””

Martröð – “Transmutation of Wounds”

Martröð is the collaborative project of an international group of musicians united by their shared musical and ideological goals. Featuring Wrest (of Leviathan), D.G. (of Misþyrming), Alex Poole (of Krieg), and others, their pedigree is impressive, but their music ought to stand by itself, and with such an incredible line-up it’s only natural that expectations are high. Thankfully, those expectations have been met, and Martröð really have crafted a very special release with ‘Transformation of Wounds’.

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Interview: Zhrine and Svartidauði guitarist Nökkvi Gylfason

I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I think Iceland’s metal scene is absolutely fucking stellar. Probably half of my top 10 favourite bands hail from the tiny northern island, Zhrine among them. Formerly known as Gone Postal, they underwent an incredible metamorphosis, bursting onto the scene earlier this year with their debut album “Unortheta”, a dazzling and entrancing black and death metal concoction that succeeded – in my view – on nearly every level. Having reviewed the album not too long ago, I now bring you an interview with their guitarist Nökkvi Gylfason. He’s a guitarist and one of their key creative forces in ZHRINE, as well as in Svartidauði, arguably Iceland’s breakout extreme metal band. In this interview I wanted to talk about his more recent music with ZHRINE, particularly as their album means a lot to me. I want to thank Nökkvi again for taking the time to speak to me and for giving such thoughtful answers. Continue reading “Interview: Zhrine and Svartidauði guitarist Nökkvi Gylfason”

Review: Zhrine – “Unortheta”

Over the past few years, Iceland’s metal scene has exploded in popularity. This year has seen Svartidauði perform in the United States and support Primordial on a tour across Europe, while Misþyrming performed as an Artist In Residence at the legendary Roadburn festival after just one album to their name. Zhrine seem set to continue that winning streak with their debut album ‘Unortheta’, taking elements of black metal and death metal and combining them to create that something far greater than the sum of its parts.

I’m going to get straight to the point here: Zhrine‘s greatest strength is their ability to write fantastic songs. Other bands might be heavier, more technical, or more avant-garde, but Zhrine‘s ability to write beautiful, haunting, deeply unsettling  music is so many steps ahead of most other bands it’s almost silly. And that’s even more impressive considering this is their first release together as Zhrine, having been previously known as Gone Postal before rebranding as Zhrine to mark the change in musical direction from that past project. For such a young band to come out with such a well-written debut album as Unortheta is a rare thing. It’s not an easy thing to articulate or explain, but whatever good songwriting is – it’s present on Unortheta in spades.

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Abominor – Opus Decay

Abominor are a black metal band from Reykjavík, Iceland. Formed back in 2008, this is their first release since their 2010 demo, and it left quite an impression on me. Iceland is having something of a black metal renaissance at the moment, with groups like Svartidauði, Sinmara (formerly Chao), and Misþyrming making huge waves across the metal scene over the last few years. Abominor do not entirely break with the suffocating, occult sound developed within the Icelandic scene, but they do enough to stand out that this EP is well worth a listen, particularly if you’re a fan of any of the aforementioned bands.

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Sinmara – Aphotic Womb

I’ve long been fascinated by Iceland’s music scene, its metal scene in particular. For such a small country with such a low population it’s surprising how many quality bands they produce. Svartidauði, Wormlust, Sólstafir, Angist, Carpe Noctem, Mannveira… Suffice it to say that they have a thriving metal scene. And if you know anything about the aforementioned bands then you’ll realise that Sinmara have some serious pedigree, as they feature former members of Svartidauði, Wormlust, Rebirth of Nefast, and Slidhr. Sinmara are a black metal group from Reykjavík, Iceland. They formed in 2008 under the name ‘Chao’ but renamed to Sinmara in 2013. On their debut full-length ‘Aphotic Womb’ Sinmara blend occult and mystical orthodox black metal with unparalleled atmosphere and brutality.

To me, Sinmara embody everything that black metal should be. It’s atmospheric but never too slow as to lose its ferocity; heavy and aggressive but never monotonous or one-dimensional. The spacious, cavernous production does wonders for the band’s sound, allowing each instrument enough room to breathe, with the bass being given a fair and prominent place in the mix unlike many black metal bands. ‘Cavernous’ is a good word to describe the production on the album; if you close your eyes in a dark room you can imagine yourself in some grim and kvlt cave and picture the band actually playing the music right in front of (or around) you. It makes for some compelling atmosphere.

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Review: Naðra – “Eitur”

In the last few months I’ve been fascinated by the Icelandic metal scene. Musically it seems to take what Norway and Sweden are doing with death and black metal but somehow make it even darker and, in many cases, stranger. A good example of this would be Wormlust who take atmospheric black metal and infuse it with psychedelic craziness. Naðra take a slightly more conventional approach to black metal but emphasise a sense of technicality and speed. Eitur is their first release, and was released on April 1 of this year digitally and on a limited number of tapes. There are two songs on this EP, the first of which (‘Fjallið’) is four minutes but the second (‘Falið’) is 13 minutes long, so there’s actually a good 18 minutes of music on this demo tape. Continue reading “Review: Naðra – “Eitur””